Review: The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss

cover of The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss
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This is a book everyone needs to read. I am vary of picking up hyped books but I trust the opinion of those I follow on YouTube and when I saw this on the library shelf I picked it up. I was worth it. Sarah Moss’ writing is exceptional and I will pick up more of her books in the future.

The Tidal Zone is one of those books which suck you in despite the fact that, take my case, you don’t read contemporary novels. A well written book will keep you glued to the pages even if you’re not that interested in the subject matter.

The book is told from the perspective of a stay at home father – Adam – whose daughter one day, collapsed and stopped breathing. The book deals with the aftermath of that collapse and tells us how the father and the family is coping with what happened.

So let’s see why I liked it. It is well written. You feel like you are in Adam’s head, more so, you are Adam. You feel his anguish, his fear, the powerlessness which comes with a situation like this, his inability to help or fix the problem, cure Miriam. The layout of the pages with its long paragraphs adds to the book’s unique atmosphere, it’s a visual representation of the feelings and mental state of Adam. It’s scary how thoughts of what happened can creep into every thought.

‘Miriam was still there in the morning, still breathing, her bedroom again smelling of shampoo and sleep as well as clean sheets and dirty tights. No need to wake her. We will need, her headteacher had said, an Individual School Health Plan. We will need a photo of her, for a board in the staff-room, so that everyone knows who she is. We will need a meeting with the School Health Team. We will need staff training. None of that sounded like the kind of thing that happens quickly, and for now, for just a few days, I wanted to let it ride, let it float. I wanted my daughter at home, her presence our benediction. As if I could no longer distinguish between an absent child and a lost one, as if I had lost what in babies is called object constancy, meaning the knowledge that something absent continues to exist out of sight and hearing. The acquisition of object constancy is said to be an important developmental stage: Mummy is not gone but elsewhere. Teddy is under the cot. The problem, it seemed yo me in those days, is that object constancy is one of those lies we tell ourselves to make it possible to live. Important things may cease to exist when you look away.’

It is not only well written, it’s cleverly written, with current themes about the world we live in in the 21st century. At times you feel like a spectator.

‘How do you do it, I wanted to ask the nurses, how do you return every day to this place where families have fallen into ruin, how do you live in a world where it is normal for children to die and parents to grieve? Except that we all live in that world, don’t we, only some of us, most of us in Britain today, are able to pretend otherwise. It is normal for children to die. Look at Syria, at Palestine, at Eritrea and Somalia. Look at the tidelines of beaches in Italy and Greece. Look, while we are on the subject, at certain parts of Chicago and Los Angeles. The nurses’ world, the hospital version of normality, is true and what most of us here and now regard as ordinary life is a lie.’

‘Forest Lake, as Mimi never misses a chance to point out, is neither a forest nor a lake, nor indeed constructed on the site of either, but the biggest shopping mall in the Midlands, also known around here as a temple to late capitalist decadence and local epicenter of global practices of exploitative labour, environmental destruction, misogynistic marketing and other fashionable sins. Some of the girls in Miriam’s class worship there more than once a week, giving Mimi and her friends the pleasures of moral superiority as well as themselves the joys of shopping.’

Adam is a stay at home dad and Emma, the mother, the breadwinner. I love how Sarah Moss describes them coping with this fact, that even now, in the 21st century this situation still is an exception from the norm. It’s not so often you read about the inversion of the gender roles, and it is about time. You won’t find anything you expect to find when you read this book. It is quite refreshing.

This book is a masterwork of describing family life in the 21st century. The struggle of balancing work and family life, raising children, working from home, working too much as a way of escape, love between spouses, parental love and so much more. It is amazing that amidst the current all encompassing tragedy of a child falling unexpectedly ill, one’s thoughts still need to be occupied by mundane tasks like making dinner and washing the dishes.

I am happy I picked up this book, despite the hype on YouTube, and I will definitely check out more of Sarah Moss’ books because her writing style is amazing.

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